I’ve had interesting conversations with both men and women since I posted LOVE AND RESPECT on this blog a few weeks ago. Based upon the book of the same name, I learned that women want to hear they are “loved” where men desire “respect”.
I’m struggling with it all. On the one hand, I agree with Author Eggerichs that respect shouldn’t need to be earned. As women, we should show unconditional respect even when he “fails to be the man I want.” On the other hand, I’ve been in relationships where it didn’t matter; unconditional, unearned respect for him didn’t change the destructiveness of the relationship.
One friend asked a hard question, “What if your husband isn’t respect-ABLE? I don’t mean that he doesn’t help around the house, doesn’t remember your birthday, or likes to go play golf rather than play with the kids. What if your husband doesn’t want to work even though you have a full-time job, he spends all your money, you’ve had to file for bankruptcy twice, and he drinks to ease his demons? No measure of love OR respect made him change. I’ve forgiven my first husband and am now married to a great guy. But my first husband never repented, said he was sorry, and never changed his ways. What about unconditional respect in that scenario?”
That’s a tough one. What happens when you are married to a person who refuses to read the book? It seems like the classic “chicken or the egg debate—which comes first?” If I respect my husband when he isn’t respect-ABLE, will he be won over by my holiness, or will he never change? Another question begs asking, “How long is long enough?” If my husband continues to overspend, doesn’t look for a job, and ignores the kids, do I keep on “respecting” him? What if he never says he’s sorry? Doesn’t repent and truly doesn’t want to change his behavior?
I belong to a ladies group at my church, LIFE (Living in Faith Every Day) and we are reading Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The authors talk about the transformation when people begin to develop themselves in the image of God; when taking care of yourself also becomes important.
I liked the lesson the authors use to illustrate how God demonstrates the importance of personal respect. In the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, the King finds no invited guests at the wedding feast. He instructs his servants to go find whomever they can to attend. “Whenever God decides that “enough is enough,” and he has suffered long enough, he respects his own property, his heart, enough to do something to make it better. He takes responsibility for the pain and makes moves to make his life different. He lets go of the rejecting people and reaches out to some new friends.
I’ve been in a destructive relationship where I was afraid that if I stood up for myself, that I would be alone in the world. Now I am no longer afraid of conflict, I am willing to forgive mistakes and have respect for my boundaries as well as the boundaries of my friends.
I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this apparent contradiction. As women, we want to respect the men in our lives. But what if we have made bad choices and our husband isn’t respect-ABLE? How do we reconcile when “enough is enough”? Is it a matter of my heart, his heart, or both hearts?
Blessings that you will enjoy nurturing relationships in your life where boundaries are encouraged and love and respect are freely given.